Inspired by the North American Basic Income
Guarantee Congress NYC JUNE 2017
I’ve got the Basic Income Blues…. Because in my heart I believe all need to feel secure, to have enough to eat, to live, just to be, Because in my soul, (whatever that is), I feel that BIG is a chance to live with hope, able to “speak our own truths” —
without so much fear of poverty, violence, homelessness, and distain. Because, in my head, I know it’s possible —we can get a BIG, IF we work together, led by those who need it most, Stay deeply generous, not tight, in our vision, Not fearing failure if we don’t get it right the first time. As Brandy sings, I want a Basic Income “Because I’m Alive.”
I’ve got the Basic Income Blues…. But now I worry, because people with money, high tech status, and so much certainty, have “discovered” BIG, want to promote it, to design it, to “own” the brand. Already, with hope for funding, the rest of us are obligated: Obligated to please them, obligated to “align with their values,” to place them in front of the cameras, to keep criticisms internal and “civil.” Because we can’t lose their money
SO I’ve got the blues… I’ve seen it happen before. Seen radical movements, lose themselves in the quest for what’s possible, what’s winnable, for what’s fundable, for what seems to work, but doesn’t.
Who’s most hurt then? Not the founders, not those who explain it, study it, not the white professionals who discover BIG and “like the idea,” Rather, the people most hurt are those who absolutely need a Basic Income, now: The precariat — our “new dangerous class,” People of color, immigrants, those less abled, People who hope a BI will change their present and their futures. who want it for themselves, their families, and their communities, who gain strength from imagining it, from working for it, and who will be most dispirited if we fail…
Let’s not go there…
Those who know poverty, up close and personal, must lead, not just advise, head the table, not just be at it, when decisions are made, when tactics and strategies are determined when the vision and goals are expanded Otherwise, only the form will remain, while the spirit passes away
And that’s a reason to sing the blues
PS I’ve got more to say in a discussion about what’s next for NABIG, about how to proceed, how to organize ourselves, and where we should not go. But that’s for later, based on collective responses to the Congress. But for now, I needed to send this out to my broader world,
This is Suezanne Bruce, of Massachusetts Basic Income Initiative, MBII, my partner in crime. We are currently working together to link Massachusetts Basic Income organizing with Survivors Inc., the longstanding welfare rights/anti-poverty organization in Boston, with an effort to create local chapter of the Social Welfare Action Alliance, SWAA (formerly the Bertha Capen Reynolds Society). We are doing outreach, making contacts, and hoping for funding from the Economic Security Project. The proposal for this funding is below
Proposal to Economic Security Project
UPDATED, MAY 15, 2017
Building an Anti-Poverty Base for The Massachusetts’ Basic Income Initiative (MBII), Under the auspices of Survivors Inc., Boston, sponsor and fiscal agent
Ann Withorn, Director, Suezanne Bruce Coordinator/Organizer
The goal of the Massachusetts’ Basic Initiative (MBII) is to launch an educational and mobilization Initiative that will directly link Basic Income ideas and actions with the ideas and goals of poor peoples’ groups and community organizations in Massachusetts. Thereby we will strengthen networks for BI education and action across community, academic and professional groups.
Our underlying purpose is build support for a Basic Income Movement among those people who will most benefit from BI by developing a model that specifically responds to visions and concerns articulated by people who experience poverty.
The MBII Initiative grows out of earlier efforts to connect supporters of the 30+ years-old Boston’s welfare rights organization, Survivors Inc., with the loosely organized four year-old network of Basic Income Massachusetts adherents. With ESP’s help, the Massachusetts Basic Income Initiative (MBII) will focus on:
1) effectively getting the word out about Basic Income to a wide range of poor people’s groups and their allies in antipoverty, social justice and community organizations. This effort will allow us to open dialogue and create plans for cooperation regarding a range of mutual concerns.
2) building a base for a Basic Income Movement in Massachusettsthrough a variety of outreach methods. We will draw initially from the network of Massachusetts social and economic justice organizations that are led by poor people, immigrants and people of color. We will support discussion, based upon the differing experiences of people in such groups, about what a Basic Income Movement should be, and what strategies and tactics should be used to build it. These organizations are full of experienced activists who have been long-time allies of Survivors Inc;
3)sponsoring a set of conversations among low income people from varied backgrounds about “What a Meaningful Basic Income Would Be for Poor People: How much? How Distributed? Anticipated Complications?” We will transcribe, edit and use these conversations as a base for development of a Poor People’s Basic Income Model” by the end of Year One
4) collaborating with BIGMinn, to create a model for local BI organizing, for the purpose of learning about their extensive local outreach and organizing efforts. We will share results from our work with poor people’s organizations as a base of support for BI. From this collaboration we will together create a Guide to Grassroots Basic Income Organizing to be shared with other local BI groups. (The base for this joint endeavor comes from the partnership that Ann Withorn and Liane Gale have created thought their continuing co-leadership of the Basic Income Woman Action Group)
Over the year, MBII will use ESP funds primarily to expand the existing informal cohort of current BI advocates and allies in the Boston area into a more recognized source for BI ideas and activity within the Massachusetts economic/social Justice community. Our specific plans include
creating an active Advisory Group for MBII, made up of people who have worked with us previously around welfare rights, poverty, social justice and Basic Income concerns. They will respond to and help direct our efforts
engaging in outreach to, and engagement with, local poor peoples’ organizations by visiting with members, attending local events, and individual outreach to leadership.
sponsoring a set of conversations later in the year, among low income people from varied background about “What a Meaningful Basic Income Would Be for Poor People? We will use these conversations as a base for development of a “Poor Peoples’ Basic Income Model
preparing and distributing accessible material for the purpose of connecting BI talk/ideas directly with poor people’s concerns, in the hope to building joint efforts with sister organizations in Boston and across Massachusetts
supporting the continuation of Survival Tips and other traditional Survival News activities, through the Poor Peoples United Fund, primarily via an electronic format.
underwriting transportation to selected conferences and related BI-related national gatherings (i.e. , the June NABIG Congress in NYC, the June Michigan Welfare Rights Poverty Summit in Detroit, and collaboration with BIMINN, and national Social Welfare Action Alliance (SWAA) gatherings in Rochester NY, among others.
What is unique about our Initiative
Historically, much of Basic Income activity in Massachusetts (as elsewhere in the US) has been focused on developing and explaining the concept, speculating about what it might mean in practice , and reaching out to educated informed audiences, based primarily in universities, professional and civic interest groups. This work has been good. As have the pilot projects and other efforts to create real-world models for UBI.
We hope that our project will serve to further ground Basic Income in the philosophy and goals of US anti-poverty movements, based on conversations and collaboration with existing poor peoples groups in Boston and other areas of Massachusetts. Most specifically we hope that the creation of our “Poor Peoples’ Basic Income Model” will be of assistance to BI organizing throughout NABIG. Especially we hope our work will spur Basic Income advocates to bring more low income people, and anti-poverty activists, into all BI efforts.
in Boston, Basic Income appeals to us today because it is a natural extension of early proposals of the 1960’s National Welfare Rights Organization for a Guaranteed Income for all. That effort had significant support in Massachusetts especially through local welfare rights groups in Boston, Cambridge and Springfield. For years it was carried forward by the Coalition for Basic Human Needs in Cambridge (CBHN,) a group with which many Survivors Inc. members were long affiliated.
The past work of Survivors inc, and the example of Survival News serve as the base for our approach — grassroots activism, lead by poor women, in coordination with low income and welfare rights groups around the country. The voice and activity should always be democratic, participatory, and representative of the voices and perspectives of people who have current and past experiences of poverty.
We view our request for support from ESP to build a Massachusetts Basic Income Initiative as essentially, an anti-poverty proposal in the fullest sense — and a way to establish a local base for establishing a model for a Basic Income that can help anybody who is currently poor, and also reduce the real and often paralyzing fear of poverty for all in the future. AND we are especially excited by our plans because we believe that any current Basic Income Movement can only succeed in today’s precarious political economy if it also has significant numbers of poor people meaningfully involved from the beginning — along with other anti-poverty, labor, and community allies. Otherwise BI is just another interesting policy scheme which will be discussed by policy wonks and academics forever. And, if it ever were to be enacted without such input, the result will likely shortchange the very people who are most deeply connected with poverty.
On the other hand, if all who see the imperative for a Basic Income can fully include, listen to, and take leadership from those who know deep economic/social insecurity and precarity in their own lives and within their communities, we may have a chance “to keep on keeping on.” Besides, if we can all take turns on the soapbox. our work becomes less lonely and more grounded.
Ann Withorn, our Director (un-paid) has engaged in related activity for many years — primarily though speaking at academic and organizationally-sponsored settings and through writing and media opportunities. From the start of her BI involvement in 1988 she has attempted to link the Basic Income and Welfare Rights Movements. Now a Professor emeritus from the College of Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Professor Withorn plans to play a leadership role in this Initiative based on her 40 years working with her adult students and activists in the Boston-area social justice community. She will also bring years of writing and collaborative experience to the effort, and especially to the production of the “BI Model for Poor People”
Suezanne Bruce, the Initiative’s Coordinator/Organizer, also brings extensive personal and profession experience with realities of poverty and front-line work around economic rights, anti-racism health access, plus experience with criminal justice, substance and domestic abuse and homelessness organizations. Ms. Bruce is well known locally for this work –across a wide range of Boston area community settings. Recently she graduated as a Community Fellow from Tufts University with a Masters in Urban and Environmental Planning, Ms. Bruce brings newly honed research and administrative skills to our Initiative.
In short, both Withorn and Bruce contribute wide knowledge, varied skills and extensive contacts to the Massachusetts Basic Income Initiative, as do our potential Advisors and community allies. That this combination of people will be actively involved is, in itself, a sign that MBII will interact with more than the set of the “usual suspects” who traditionally define Basic Income efforts.